In a coronial setting a deceased person must be formally identified. It is difficult to identify a deceased person when their physical features are disrupted and identification by visual means cannot occur. In the absence of visual identification, the confirmation of identity of a deceased person relies on the scientific comparison of information obtained post mortem with ante mortem information. The ante mortem information may include dental and medical records, fingerprints, and DNA profiling. For cases involving incinerated remains, this traditionally requires the collection of blood, muscle or bone samples from the deceased (depending on the severity of the burns) for DNA analysis and subsequent comparison to a reference sample for kinship determination. Following on from work conducted during the DVI response to a plane crash in Papua New Guinea in 2011, a study has been performed examining the viability of utilising material obtained from bladder swabs in deaths associated with fires. Twenty-eight cases were analysed during 2012 with deaths occurring in motor vehicle and aviation accidents, as well as house fires, homicides and from self-immolation. Bladder and conventional (blood, muscle or bone) samples were subjected to DNA analysis and compared. Our findings demonstrate that the bladder samples all gave DNA of sufficient quality for DNA profiling. This easily obtained sample (when available) can be now recommended in the scientific identification process of fire affected deceased persons.
Owen, R., Bedford, P. J., Leditschke, J., Schlenker, A., & Hartman, D. (2013). Post mortem sampling of the bladder for the identification of victims of fire related deaths. Forensic Science International, 233(1-3), 14 - 20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2013.07.018